City to look at design standards for solar-ready homes

Newly constructed homes in Red Deer will not have solar-ready capabilities — not yet anyway.

Newly constructed homes in Red Deer will not have solar-ready capabilities — not yet anyway.

The City of Red Deer will explore the idea as part of working on new design standards for communities, under its Design Charter workplan.

City council decided on Monday to go softer on a resolution suggested by Coun. Paul Harris.

He wanted administration to evaluate how to include solar-ready requirements in the new community design standards, and to research a bylaw requiring new home construction to be built solar-ready.

Harris said he heard of the idea through a citizen and started looking into it.

New homes would essentially have a conduit from the roof to the utility room for electricity and potentially water heating.

Harris found that 35 communities in British Columbia alone have introduced similar measures.

He said there is some community interest because shortly after he did a CBC radio interview, a few residents approached builders about incorporating this equipment into their house plans.

In a letter addressed to city council on Monday, Dan Ouwehand, president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association-Central Alberta chapter, said the association believes there are many approaches that can be taken to make a neighbourhood sustainable.

And it’s good that this discussions will take place within the context of re-establishing the design parameters of new housing developments, Ouwehand said.

“Elevating one small component of sustainability above the rest fails to recognize the cumulative role that many technologies play in attaining sustainable, affordable housing,” he said.

“Furthermore, the eventual conclusion of the new design charter may render this motion moot.”

Mayor Morris Flewwelling and Councillors Cindy Jefferies, Dianne Wyntjes, Lynne Mulder and Harris approved the exploration of solar-ready capability.

Councillors Buck Buchanan, Chris Stephan, Frank Wong and Tara Veer voted against it.

Jefferies said she likes that Harris is bringing forth new ideas, but she figures the conversation on solar ready homes needs to be much broader around establishing design parameters.

Wyntjes said it’s important to get the home builders on board.

“We want to build it right and the costs are anywhere from $500 to $1,500,” she said.

“And when you’re a home builder as well as an owner, every dollar counts. I wonder if we need a resolution because when we’re doing the design charter, I would expect these kinds of topics would come up.”

Veer said she was hesitant about approving something that would show the building industry and the public that “we’re going down this road.”